Finish Type

Solvent Borne Finishes

Solvent borne polyurethane finishes (single pack and two pack) were developed during the 1950′s and 1960′s. They provide a hard finish, which offers good abrasion resistance. These are an older style finish which do not offer the flatter, more modern look offered by waterborne finishes.

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Solvent borne finishes come in a variety of sheens, including satin, semi-gloss and gloss.
If you are after a high shine finish, then a solvent based gloss finish is definitely recommended.

Solvent borne finishes will generally darken with time and although hard, may scratch if care is not taken. Repairing such damage is often not as easy as with other finishes. The odour after application is very strong with this type of finish. Due to their high strength and generally limited flexibility, edge gluing of boards can occur, unless an appropriate sealer is used.


Hard to very hard finish
Limited flexibility and known to edge bond boards. Need an appropriate sealer to avoid edge bonding
1-4 hour cure by chemical reaction
Not tolerant to waxes
Strong odour when applying
Avoid inhalation and contact with skin
Matt to very high gloss levels
Darkens with age
Some finishes not easy to repair
Generally ready for use after 3 days


Water Based Finishes

Waterborne polyurethane / acrylic mixes and straight waterborne polyurethanes are the most modern type of floor finish, offering a highly durable solution and ultra flat appearance. Two pack waterborne finishes are much more durable than their single pack counterparts.

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Waterborne finishes which contain acrylic (to obtain greater body), offer a softer, less wear resistant finish. Two pack waterborne finishes offer excellent wear resistance and are the modern alternative to solvent based finishes. These products (containing little or no acrylic), provide a flexible, hard-wearing surface. Waterborne finishes should be applied over a sealer (either solvent or water-based). This enhances the natural colour of the timber and greatly reduces the risk of edge bonding the boards.

Waterborne finishes come in a variety of sheens, including ultra-matt (very low reflection), matt, satin and gloss.
There is little odour associated with water borne finishes.


Hard to very hard finish
Moderate to very hard finish (with low acrylic)
Flexible and unlikely to edge bond boards when applied over a sealer
2-4 hour cure by evaporation and reaction
Not tolerant to waxes
Minimal odour on application
Matt to very high gloss levels
Do not darken with age
Relatively easy to repair
Generally ready for use after 1 day


Oil Based Finishes

Oil-based finishes are the more traditional types of finish manufactured by reacting a natural oil (e.g. linseed and tung) with another chemical.

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Varnishes, shellac and the traditional tung oil, fall within this category and are associated with the polished and waxed timber floors of the past.

These types of finishes are still commonly available, but require greater regular maintenance than other finishes. They have become easier to maintain with the use of vinyl based (or metalised) polishes.

Oil-based finishes will darken with time. They are flexible and do not edge bond boards.


Softer finish requiring more frequent maintenance
Flexible and unlikely to edge bond boards
6-24 hour cure by solvent evapouration
Some tolerance to waxes
Moderate to strong odour on application
Avoid inhalation and contact with skin
Matt to gloss levels
Darken with age
Relatively easy to repair
Generally ready for use after 4-5 days